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Maria Full of Grace

Cast
Catalina Sandino Moreno, Guilied Lopez, Orlando Tobón, Virgina Ariza
Released
2003
Orlando Tobón
Blog entry

This story based on fact illustrates the process and perils of transporting drugs internally, also known as body packing, by smugglers known as mules or swallowers, from Columbia.

Lucy tells Maria, "If one [pellet] breaks, you'll die." (0:33)

We see a technician (?) measure a white powder drug into the severed fingers of rubber gloves, then compress and double-knot them. He then sprays her throat with what is later referred to as an "anesthetic" to facilitate her swallowing 50 or more of the resulting pellets, also using an unspecified liquid as a lubricant (0:39). She passes some of them in the toilet of the airplane in route to the New York area and has to clean and swallow them again (0:49). She avoids detection going through U.S. Customs only because she tests positive for pregnancy, and Customs as a matter of policy does not x-ray pregnant women.

Drug dealers keep the women in a hotel room while they collect the pellets by forcing them to defecate into a bathtub (1:00). Lucy becomes intoxicated, probably from a ruptured pellet (1:00). When Maria and Blanca see the dealers carry her body away they find the bathtub splattered "with blood, presumably a result of "surgical" removal of the drugs from her bowel. Before she dies Lucy appears lethargic rather than agitated. Does this suggest the pellets contained heroin rather than cocaine?

The remainder of the film plays out in the Jackson Heights (Queens), New York neighborhood, a "little Columbia" where Don Fernando, played by Orlando Tobón, who also served as associate producer, runs a store front travel agency. "Don Orlando," as he is known in the community there in real life, has actually taken it upon himself to help when these desperate individuals have died when drug pellets leaked inside them.